There can be few players of the calibre of Joe Scuderi who have participated in European competitions over the years. The Australian of Italian ancestry who played and coached for the Azurri for 18 years was a combative character who gave everything on and off the field.
He qualified for Italy through his family heritage, as the Scuderi family came to Australia after the end of the First World War.
Tragedy struck when his father died young, effectively ending a promising career for his elder sibling Sammy, who was only 17 years old, taking over the family sugar cane farm.
Joe, only eight at the time, soon too showed promise and progressed quickly through the ranks, cutting his teeth at club level with Uniteds in his hometown of Ingham, and succeeding at age group junior trials. He would eventually play for both Queensland and Australia at Under 19 level between 1985 and 1987, going on the following year to be part of the first intake of the Cricket Australia Academy.
The majority of that inaugural group would go on to forge first-class careers, the most high profile being Stuart Law, who both played and coached at Test match level. From an Associate perspective, Peter Drinnen was another worthy of note, going on to coach both Scotland and The Netherlands.
A sliding doors moment soon after came when with both Queensland and South Australia competing for his services he opted to move to Adelaide, which he describes as ‘ a very long story that I'll save for a book one day!’
Scuderi went on to play 82 first-class matches for South Australia and Lancashire over a twelve year period. His career maybe didn’t reach the heights he appeared destined for in the early days, but he still managed to score 3373 runs at 30.10, with 17 fifties and three centuries. In addition he took 179 wickets, claiming five wickets in an innings eight times.
His highlights were taking six wickets for 6 runs against Western Australia, a maiden first-class century, plus a remarkable all-round effort against New South Wales when he took ten wickets as well as making a century.
Scuderi was named in the Australian preliminary World Cup squad in 1992, but just failed to make the final cut, at a time when cricket in the country was entering a decade of real dominance.
There are no regrets though as he reflected: “Yes I did get close a couple of times but obviously just didn't do enough to make it.
“I think I could've practiced and trained a little bit harder, but I'm also aware that I had a successful first class career for 12 years so I must've been doing some things right.”
Australia’s loss was Italy’s gain when the pair found each other ahead of the 1998 season.
“1998 were my first games for Italy. We really contacted each other mutually. We both needed each other at that point. A relationship that lasted 18 years.”
Scuderi debuted for Italy in the 1998 European Championships against Gibraltar, and soon made a major impact, scoring an unbeaten 106 as Italy beat ECB England. It would be the first of many impressive results for his adopted country, as Scuderi thrived on the additional responsibility and his team mates responded.
“The Italian players were very welcoming. They loved their cricket and I guess coming from a professional players’ background they looked up to me.
“It was important that I led by example and from the front which I think helped with their confidence as a team and themselves as individuals. We started winning games.
“There were some very important wins for Italian cricket when I was playing and later as a coach. As well as the win against England, there were also two victories over The Netherlands. The tournament win in Belgium was another high point for the team.”
Scuderi retired from playing for Italy in 2008, stepping into the coaching shoes, a transition he admits he found difficult at times.
“At times, I found it a little frustrating because once the game started it was down to the players and I couldn't make that impact anymore. It was something I did struggle to deal with at times.”
There was success, most notably winning ICC Europe Division One in 2013, which also led to participation in the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in the UAE. However, their association ended in 2016, a decision that still rankles. Despite the break, Scuderi remains open to the prospect of a future reconciliation.
“That's up to Italian cricket to decide,” he said. “I was disappointed when it ended and even more disappointed that there was no acknowledgement or thanks from them after 18 years of commitment and service.”
These days Scuderi is based in Lancashire, where as a player in the Lancashire Leagues with amongst others, Nelson and Colne, his record is phenomenal. The stats show over 14,000 runs at 56.26, including 29 centuries, 89 fifties, 635 wickets in the low teens, plus trophy success at both.
“I have lots of great memories having played in the Lancashire League for many years.
“Winning the league with Nelson and the Cup competition with both Nelson and Colne are obvious highlights.”
It’s perhaps not surprising he now lives in the cricketing heartland, where he continues to enjoy two of his great passions, cricket and music, playing drums in two tribute bands.
“I'm coaching cricket in schools and clubs. I also do a lot of private coaching.
“I’ve played drums since I was six or seven years old. It was something I always wanted to pursue but never could because of my cricket commitments.”
Scuderi’s bands are BON UK and the Complete Clash, while he admits to being a ‘massive Kiss fan’.
“Once my playing days were winding down it was important I found something I really enjoyed to fill that void and playing drums in a band in front of an audience was it.”
Let us hope Scuderi isn’t lost to Italian or European cricket. With his pedigree and experience, he still has much to offer.